<bt>Opera International’s production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites” this summer is its first 20th-century piece, and it’s the first time for both Dorothey Bodner of Burke and Paul McIlvaine of Franconia to be part of the company.
Bodner has been with Opera International before, but it was as part of the audience.
“When I saw a production of theirs, I thought they did a really good job. Then they called me, and it was a real compliment,” Bodner said. “Someone dropped out of the part I’m singing, and they needed someone to come in quickly and be able to do it.”
McIlvaine worked with the stage director and conductor of Opera International before, and when the part of First Commissioner came up, they gave him a call.
“I’ve known them for many years," McIlvaine said. "Then they came to me with this role and said, ‘We have a small role, but it’s perfect for you.' I know and trust them because I worked with them before. I was just dying to work with people like them again.”
“The Dialogue of the Carmelites,” written by Francis Poulenc, is a true story about the French Revolution. Carmelite nuns were banned from practicing Christianity during the Revolution.
“The Carmelites were part of the Revolution, but not the way they wanted to be,” Bodner said. “They ended up getting executed.”
TO PREPARE for the production, stage director Mariam Bosbillas researched every nun in the convent who was executed.
“I spent 40 hours researching the nuns — our heroines,” Bosbillas said. “I found information on every single nun, so our actors can really step into their shoes. We’re making a conscious effort to preserve the historical truth in the piece.”
The production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites” marks Opera International’s 10th Anniversary. Muriel Hom organized the company in 1994 after receiving a $50,000 grant for international singers.
“I was trying to promote singers who don’t get as much opportunity to be a part of an opera,” Hom said. “I had no intention of forming a company at the time, but I just sort of fell into it.”
Because the company relies on donations and grants, it has only one production a year.
“We do one first-class show a year,” Hom said. “Opera is incredible, and you can’t convince people to love operas unless you do it well.”
The goal of Opera International is to train young singers, educate the public and maintain affordable prices.
“The Washington Opera has seats going for $2,000,” Hom said. “But $2,000 seats are ridiculous. We do great shows, better than Wolf Trap and better than Washington Opera, and we have better prices.”
Opera International’s performance of “Dialogues of the Carmelites” will be presented on July 30, at 7:30 p.m., and Aug. 1, at 4 p.m., at the Lisner Auditorium at the George Washington University campus in D.C.
McIlvaine said that he has sung at many places over the years, nationally and internationally, and even though Opera International is a local company, it’s a good company.
“Opera International is a professional company. They really have their act together,” McIlvaine said. “It takes a lot of things to put an opera together. Some companies are strong in one area but weak in another. But Opera International is strong in all their areas.”
McIlvaine said that even though he has a small role with six to seven pages of song, his character really comes to life.
“I hope a lot of people come to see this because Washington is a political city and the underlying theme of the opera is politics,” McIlvaine said. “This opera’s a shocker, definitely not a comedy.”